The son of a star who became a headline name in his own right and set a record that endured fully 60 years
Writer Peter Higham
The son of 1920s Alfa Romeo star Antonio Ascari, Alberto was seven years old when his father was killed while leading the 1925 French Grand Prix at Montlhéry. He decided upon a career as a racing driver nonetheless and made his own GP debut in the 1947 Italian GP at Milan, when driving a Scuderia Ambrosiana Maserati 4CLT. Victory in San Remo at the start of 1948 was rewarded with a one-off appearance for Alfa Romeo in that year’s French GP, which he finished in third position.
It was when Ascari joined Ferrari in 1949 that his potential began fully to be realised. The team had overtaken Alfa Romeo as world championship pace-setter by the end of 1951, with Ascari and José Froilán González winning three of the last four qualifying rounds. The Italian totally dominated the championship during 1952 and 1953, winning another 11 GPs to become the sport’s first back-to-back champion.
It was a surprise, therefore, when he joined newcomer Lancia in 1954, although the Vittorio Jano-designed D50 was ready only for the final GP of the year. Ascari led from pole position on the car’s debut in Spain and that promise was confirmed by victories at Turin and Naples in ’55.
He was about to inherit the lead of the subsequent Monaco GP when he lost control entering the chicane. The Lancia shot through the straw bales and into the harbour below. He escaped with a cut nose, but suffered fatal injuries just four days later when he rolled a Ferrari 750 Monza at Monza’s Curva Vialone.
Both Antonio and Alberto Ascari were 36 and in the prime of their careers when they lost their lives.